Crew who fled fishing boat seek $917,000

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 05:00 02/10/2012
FIGHT TO RECLAIM WAGES: The 32 crew of the Oyang 75 walked off in Lyttelton in June last year in protest at conditions.
MARTIN HUNTER/ Fairfax NZ

FIGHT TO RECLAIM WAGES: The 32 crew of the Oyang 75 walked off in Lyttelton in June last year in protest at conditions.

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Indonesian crew members owed almost a million dollars by South Korea's largest fishing company have applied to reclaim some of their wages through the New Zealand courts after the ship they worked on was forfeited.

The 32 crew of the Oyang 75 walked off in Lyttelton in June last year in protest at conditions.

The Korean Coast Guard wants to press charges against its owners, the Sajo Oyang Corporation. It has applied to lay charges against the company's chief executive, two Korea-based managers and the company's manning agent relat- ing to forged wage documents.

The crew's boatswain, chief engineer, chief mate and first engineer face charges including assault, sexual assault and habitual assault.

The Tauranga-based lawyer acting for the crew, Craig Tuck, said his clients were owed $917,429 for the six months of their two-year contract that they worked.

Four officers of the Oyang 75 were fined more than $420,000 last month for fish dumping and filing false catch returns, after conviction in Christchurch District Court.

As part of the sentence the 68-metre trawler, worth up to US$8 million (NZ$9.6m), is forfeit to the Crown. The Primary Industries Ministry says anyone with interests in the ship should make a claim within the next month.

The ship was now in Mauritius, after Sajo Oyang paid a $900,000 bond to be able to leave New Zealand, Mr Tuck said.

Following the sentencing of the officers, Mr Tuck filed an application to recover the wages the 32 crew were owed, a process expected to take three months.

A ministry spokesman said the ship was likely to be sold when it returned to New Zealand.

The ministry was "pretty confident" it would be returned and it would be seized if it landed at any friendly port, which covered most democratic countries, he said.

Another Sajo Oyang ship, the Oyang 77, has been detained at Lyttelton after its skipper and factory manager were charged with misreporting and fish dumping.

Mr Tuck said he also had a wages claim for crew who had worked on the Oyang 77. They were owed considerably more than the Oyang 75 crew.

Claims of assault by Oyang 75 crew sparked a ministerial inquiry which resulted in May in the Government deciding to ban foreign-flagged fishing boats in four years.

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